Complaint Mediation Process
Each year, the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) mediates approximately 18,000 consumer complaints. The goal is to address any consumer concerns regarding an automotive repair transaction, mediate a fair resolution, and educate the automotive repair dealer (ARD) on their responsibilities under the Automotive Repair Act. BAR’s role as a complaint mediator is to act as a neutral third party focused on achieving a fair resolution based upon the facts of the repair transaction.
Consumers are encouraged to communicate concerns to the ARD’s management, as noted in the ARD sign that is required in every facility. However, if all attempts at resolution are unsuccessful, a complaint can be filed to request BAR’s assistance. Complaints can be submitted to BAR online, by mail, by telephone, or in person at a BAR field office. BAR reviews and acknowledges all complaints. Complaints within BAR’s jurisdiction are forwarded to the appropriate field office for assignment to a program representative for mediation. The program representative will review the complaint, contact the consumer, and gather any necessary documentation pertaining to the complaint. The program representative may need to inspect the consumer’s vehicle. The program representative then will contact the ARD to gather further information and attempt to resolve the consumer’s issue. The program representative will keep both parties informed throughout the complaint mediation process.
The consumer’s complaint and the mediation efforts are recorded in a complaint report. All complaint reports are placed in the ARD’s master file and may be subpoenaed by either party to a small claims court or other civil action. Information on the small claims court subpoena process is available on the Records Request Guidelines page at www.bar.ca.gov.
If violations of the Automotive Repair Act are identified during the complaint mediation process, the program representative will determine the appropriate action to be taken. BAR may educate the ARD, especially if the violation relates to estimate or invoice requirements, or BAR may hold an office conference at the local field office. If BAR identifies an egregious violation of the Automotive Repair Act, such as fraud or an action that may threaten the safety of consumers, the complaint may be elevated to a formal investigation and the possible filing of a disciplinary action against the registrant or licensee.
All BAR complaints are mediated with the primary goal of obtaining a fair and appropriate resolution for both parties. Each year, BAR negotiates approximately $5 million in direct refunds, bill adjustments, and no-charge rework to the vehicle for California consumers. BAR also uses the complaint mediation process to educate ARDs on the Automotive Repair Act to help avoid future complaints and promote consumer confidence in their next repair transaction.